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Studies show, but how do studies know?

This semester, I found myself particularly uncomfortable during syllabus week. I was intrigued by the ambiguity of certain studies being thrown out as staple arguments to my professor’s personal studious preferences. The most popular being: “studies show that you retain information better when you handwrite notes rather than typing notes.” As I slid my trusty Macbook back into my backpack after hearing this line in nearly every class, I couldn’t shake the inconclusiveness I felt about such a vague so-called study. How exactly was that measured?

So I did some research to satisfy my curiosity and here’s what I found of a couple head-scratching studies:

Studies show that handwritten notes are better…

To measure the alleged outcome of students learning better through handwriting notes, two students were selected at random as personality type, GPA and study habits were ultimately deemed irrelevant in this study. First, the two students were presented with a PowerPoint outlining a chapter from a quantum mechanics textbook and asked to take notes on their laptop. The students were then given a quiz on the subject and scored. Next, they were given and pen and paper to take notes on a health lecture. They were then given a quiz on that subject and scored. Both students scored higher when they took notes using pen and paper.

Studies show that penguins mate for life…

This one was easy. I found a penguin and asked him.

Some scholars suggest that a person’s worldview is largely defined by age 13…

In the late 90’s, a group of 13-year-old students were selected at random from a local middle school to participate in this study. They were asked to define what they believe the meaning of life to be in one sentence. The same group was interviewed 20 years later and asked to compare their current worldview to that of the one they had when they were 13.

“The meaning of life is and has always been to do something that I love,” said one of the subjects, a financial accountant named John Smith. So, it was settled.

Now that I am aware of the cautious thought and energy put into these studies by prestigious psychologists, my mind is put at ease as I continue to scribble away my slightly-legible notes.